In new book, Hillary Clinton says Bergdahl release always a part of Taliban prisoner talks

The Associated Press

FILE -This May 6, 2014 file photo shows Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaking in National Harbor, Md. Clinton says she knows she has a decision to make about running to be the first female president, and believes "we need to break down that highest, hardest glass ceiling in American politics." But for now, the former first lady tells People Magazine, she wants to enjoy the moment as she considers, "what I think is right for me." The interview comes a few days ahead of the release of Clinton's new book on her days as President Barack Obama's secretary of state. She tells People Magazine that she remains "concerned about what I see happening in the country and the world." (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

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By MATTHEW LEE and KEN THOMAS, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Hillary Rodham Clinton writes in her new book that the Obama administration demanded the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in every discussion it ever held with the Taliban about prisoners.

The former secretary of state also says in the book "Hard Choices," to be released Tuesday, that she recommended that President Barack Obama end the decades-long U.S. embargo on Cuba to force Fidel and Raul Castro into democratic change.

CBS News, which obtained a copy of the book, reports that Clinton says there wouldn't be any agreement about releasing Taliban prisoners without Bergdahl's release. The swap of Bergdahl for five Taliban prisoners has drawn criticism in Congress from lawmakers who say they weren't properly notified.

In excerpts obtained by The Associated Press, Clinton says that congressional lawmakers opposing a restoration of full ties with Cuba are bent on maintaining a "deep freeze" that is not sustainable or reasonable.

"But I remained convinced that this kind of people-to-people engagement was the best way to encourage reform in Cuba and that it was profoundly in the interests of the United States and the region," she writes in a portion of the book obtained by the AP.

"Near the end of my tenure, I recommended to President Obama that he take another look at our embargo," she writes. "It wasn't achieving its goals, and it was holding back our broader agenda across Latin America. After 20 years of observing and dealing with the U.S.-Cuba relationship, I thought we should shift the onus onto the Castros to explain why they remained undemocratic and abusive."

Obama has not signaled a clear intention to end the embargo, and problems in doing so arose with the arrest of U.S. citizen Alan Gross, a U.S. government contractor who has been detained in Cuba on espionage charges since December 2009. Clinton does not mention the Gross case in the excerpt obtained by the AP. But she says she wanted to encourage the island to change through personal visits.

"Hard Choices" covers topics such as the deadly 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya; U.S. relations with Russia; and the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

Clinton describes the bin Laden operation in detail, recalling that she thought back to the people she had known and worked with who had been killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. She says Obama remained calm as his top advisers monitored the May 2011 raid into Pakistan by Navy SEALs and that "rarely have I been prouder" to have served with him.

She also discusses her 2009 meeting with Russia's top diplomat, Sergey Lavrov, in which she offered a red button labeled "reset," to symbolize how U.S. relations with Russia had thawed. But the button also contained a word in Russian meant to be a translation of "reset." Lavrov said it was wrong.

Clinton writes that it was "not the finest hour for American linguistic skills."


Lee reported from Paris.

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